How to Tile Around a Window Recess

Add style to your kitchen or bathroom while protecting your windowsill from splatters and spills with a tiled window recess.

tile teal white kitchen sink window
Photo: Nicole LaMotte
Project Overview
  • Total Time: 4 hours
  • Skill Level: Intermediate

Tiling around a window recess adds a whole new feeling to the design scheme of a room. With the right color, texture, and shape, window tiles provide the effects of a makeover without the costly expense of redecorating. And a tiled window adds a practical dimension as well: Tiles won't rot or stain, and they won't get scratched by cats seeking a sunny refuge.

Choose the color first, then the texture (most often they go hand in hand). A neutral color will cause the window to recede or blend in with the wall. If you want to call attention to the architecture of the window, use decorative tiles but design judiciously. Too many bright colors and designs can overwhelm a room and defeat the purpose.

If the window is situated on a wall that you're going to tile, tile the wall first. Use bullnose tiles to round off the edges of the window frame. That way you can make sure the grout lines of the recess are on the same plane as the wall.

You can expect to spend about four to five hours tiling a standard 36x40-inch double-hung window. Before you begin, repair any structural defects to the window and make sure it's in good working condition.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Pry bar
  • Drill
  • Handsaw
  • Margin trowel
  • Notched trowel
  • Grout float
  • Wide putty knife
  • Caulking gun
  • Bucket
  • Sponge


  • Joint tape
  • Joint compound
  • Mortar
  • Tiles
  • Caulk
  • Sandpaper
  • Spacers
  • Grout
  • Rags
  • Finishing nails
  • Fiberglass insulation


  1. SCT_136_02.jpg

    Better Homes & Gardens

    Remove Casing and Sill

    Remove the window casing with a pry bar and hammer, inserting a piece of scrap wood under the pry bar to keep from damaging the surfaces. Remove the stop molding if the tile will extend all the way to the sash. Remove the sill, cutting it with a handsaw if necessary.

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    Better Homes & Gardens

    Insulate Gap

    Stuff insulation into the gap between the jamb and the wall but don't hinder the movement of the sash weights in an old double-hung unit. If you're tiling the wall, apply fiberglass drywall tape and compound. Feather the compound level with the wall. Let it dry and sand smooth.

  3. Choose Edging Options

    Set Bullnose on the Wall: To finish the edge of a tiled window, you have several additional options. Instead of setting bullnose inside the recess, set it on the wall surface. Set the recess tiles first, then the bullnose.

    Use Corner Edging Tiles: Use corner edging tiles, similar to countertop V-caps (but without the raised lip that forms the front edge of the counter). Mark the wall where the edges of the corners will fall. Set the wall, then the corners, and then the jamb tile.

    Apply Decorative Border: Apply a decorative border strip around the recess; place bullnose or rounded field tiles on the jambs. Use bullnose if the border tile does not have a finished edge. Set the wall tiles and border first, then set the jamb tiles.

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    Better Homes & Gardens

    Create a Tiled Molding (Optional)

    You can achieve an eye-catching effect with a tiled molding. Pry off the trim and build a molding from milled stock. Make the internal width of the molding 1/4-inch larger than the tile. Set the tile in thinset (applied with a margin trowel) or silicone adhesive.

  5. SCT_136_04.jpg

    Better Homes & Gardens

    Set Tiles

    Spread and comb thinset on the sill plate, and set these tiles before the sides. Then mortar the jambs and set the side tiles, holding them in place with 8d nails. Pounding nails into hardwood causes tiles to shift, so insert finishing nails in a drill and spin them in. Grout tiles with a float.

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    Better Homes & Gardens

    Add Supports

    To create a straight grout line at the edge, install wall tiles flush with the jamb. Then set the ceiling tile in mortar and support it with three boards (battens). To avoid pushing the end tiles too deeply into the mortar, don't force the supports. Let the mortar dry.

  7. SCT_136_09.jpg

    Better Homes & Gardens

    Caulk Joint

    Caulk the joint between the tiles and the window to prevent water damage. Choose a caulk that's the same color as the grout and smooth it with a caulking tool or a wet finger.

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